Bucs QB Jameis Winston – Photo by: Getty Images
On another night, perhaps Jameis Winston doesn’t throw the ball too far.
In another stadium, perhaps Mike Evans makes another terrific catch.
In another game, perhaps the duo hooks up one more time, and the Tampa Bay Bucs manage to pull the Cowboys’ game out at the end, too.
That’s what you are used to seeing, right? By now, Tampa Bay fans are used to the sight of the Bucs finding a way. They are used to celebrating someone taking the ball away at the end. They are used to Winston leading this team downfield. They are used to seeing men measure up to the moment.
Perhaps that is why it felt so strange – and so lousy – with 2:24 left in the fourth period when Winston had Evans open down the left sideline … and overthrew him.
This time, there would be no rescue.
This time, Bucs coach Dirk Koetter didn’t get to say “the good guys win.”
This time, the two missed, and it was as symbolic as any play in Tampa Bay’s 26-20 loss.
The Bucs actually had the ball five times with a chance to take the lead in the fourth quarter … and failed five times. During that period, Winston was 3-of-12 for 19 yards and two interceptions. Martin carried twice for four yards. The five drives ended up with punts and two interceptions.
Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott – Photo by: Getty Images
And you probably threw your remote control, didn’t you?
That’s the thing about losing. The less a team does it, the more it hurts.
After five straight games of being one of the better teams in the NFL, the Bucs left their fans gargling with acid. This game cost so much – a share of the division lead with Atlanta, which won on Sunday, and expectations of the postseason and their growing self-confidence.
Sure, you can suggest that the Bucs would have been darned fortunate to win this one. Winston threw three interceptions and had a costly fumble. The defense let Dak Prescott hit 32-of-36 passes for 279 yards and run up the middle for a first-half touchdown. They let Zeke Elliott ramble for 159 yards and a touchdown, while averaging 6.9 yards per carry. They let Dallas run 71 plays for 449 yards. They gave up four sacks.
Part of it, it seems, was that the Bucs came out too amped up. Remember, this is a franchise that isn’t used to playing in huge games. Maybe that has something to do with the silly head-butt by Winston earlier.
Again, I like Winston’s passion, but leadership is about being calm; it isn’t about turning into Ric Flair. The Bucs, as a whole, seemed too revved up at the start.
During this streak of overachievement by the Bucs, however, that has been part of their charm. They made stats irrelevant.
Not Sunday night, however.
“We didn’t play as smart as we have,” said Bucs coach Dirk Koetter. “We didn’t play as well.”
So how intelligent will the Bucs be for the next two weeks?
The five-game winning streak is over, but is Tampa Bay capable of going on a two-game streak? The Bucs play at New Orleans and at home against Carolina, both teams the Bucs have beaten.
If the Bucs really are a playoff team, they should be able to beat both again. The Bucs are ahead of both in the standings. Still, the Bucs have to go through Drew Brees and Cam Newton to be reasonably sure of the postseason, which is never easy.
“Just top to bottom, we did not play as well as we’ve been playing,” Koetter said. “Part of that is playing against a good football team and part of that is that this a tough environment. It was loud out there. This will serve us well next week when we go to play the Saints.
“It would be somewhat understandable to a game of this magnitude in this stage. There are a lot of young guys out there who haven’t been in a game of this magnitude before. Like I said, this will serve us well down the road. It hurts a lot tonight.”
The key? Like always, that’s Winston.
Sure, it would be wonderful if Martin would break in either game, but he doesn’t have a 100-yard game all season. Evans has been ordinary for three weeks.
That leaves it to the second-year quarterback, who was simply too streaky on Sunday.
Winston had downfield targets, but he was off. The Bucs will be far better off when Winston establishes more of a passer’s touch.
He’ll be better, too, when the Bucs can put an offensive line like the Cowboys’ in front of him and a better back behind him. Once again Tampa Bay had no consistent ground game – 52 yards on 20 carries (2.6 avg.) – and right tackle Gosder Cherlius was repeatedly whipped so bad in the fourth quarter by defensive end David Irving that he was replaced by an undrafted rookie in Leonard Wester.
“We just have to keep winning and see how it plays out,” Winston said. “I’m going to keep fighting and I am not worried about not fighting. We just need to keep winning games and the more games we win, the better chance we have to get into the postseason.”
For the sake of their own growth, the Bucs need to make a legitimate run toward these playoffs. After a five-game winning streak, what good is 8-8?
Ten wins? That’s a better deal.
A smart team gets there. A calmer, more controlled team. An efficient team.
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Shelton just received his sixth Sportswriter of the Year award for Florida by the NSSA, and no one has seen more big events, including 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics and 11 Final Fours. Shelton still goes into the locker room to obtain his stories.
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Legendary sports columnist Gary Shelton returns to PewterReport.com for his second season of providing post-game commentary on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers like no one else can. No one has won more sports writing awards than Shelton, who has covered Tampa Bay area sports for decades with his unique brand of humor and insight. Bucs fans can Shelton daily on GarySheltonSports.com and follow him on Twitter at @Gary_Shelton
Simply the difference between a team with a fantastic OLine and one with a terrible OLine. Dak didn’t wow me…he literally didn’t move from his post after taking each snap…it was preseason training practice stuff for him….Zeke didn’t wow me…he ran untouched through holes the size of Mac trucks…no, the difference was clear on a night that our DLine gave it their all, they were just outmanned by the best in the business….while a very mediocre Dallas DLine was made to look “Too Tall” by a group of guys (Cherilus in particular) that gave up hit after hit on our QB and backfield penetration for our RB to deal with on every run.
This isn’t a one-off either. Our guys didn’t just have a bad game. It’s been this way most of this year…and all of last year too. Winston can make up for a lot, but the more he has to, the more chance we get bad Jameis…fix the line Licht, if you’re really as good a GM as PR purports…fix the line!
If posting the second highest all time NFL pass completion percentage in games with 30 or more passes doesn’t impress you, what the heck DOES impress you? Dak ate our lunch, embarrassed our defense.
And no matter how well his offensive line played, it does not explain the continued offensive weakness we’ve seen for weeks now. We have multiple opportunities to win in the fourth quarter last night, and our offense couldn’t get a single point or have a sustained drive.
Well, “stats are for losers” someone once said.
But, here’s another : 8 yards per completion (that includes the RAC)…Mike Glennon-esque. Zero TDs in 32 completions.
It’s the sort of performance that would make Alex Smith proud…except Alex never had such a great OLine.
I’ll stick with my assessment – this was a lot of dink and dunk behind the best OLine in the game giving him as much time as he wanted to stand in place and deliver little 3-5 yarders…not impressive to me.
It’s called a “win” not “stats”. Wins are for winners, and losses are for losers.
Yes – a win, thanks to the best OLine in the game…hands down.
I couldn’t agree more. I’ve posted repeatedly that we MUST spend three top picks in the next two drafts on the OL. PR ‘corrected’ me by saying Licht has given plenty of attention to the OL since arriving.
Sorry but that’s a ridiculous assertion – we’ve only drafted one quality starter, while we reached and ultimately wasted a 2nd round pick on Smith, blown our biggest FA signing in Sweeney, and otherwise drafted or picked up a bunch of guys who add depth but are not quality starters, not one of them.
We’d better INVEST in keeping JW healthy, giving him time to throw and a running game to lean on. I want to believe in Licht but we’re talking about the future of the franchise, if he blows this again (imagine if the wasted 2nds on Arroyo and Smith were instead a quality C and RT) he should probably be replaced.
Yes – just look at what can happen behind a fantastic OLine…and imagine what Jameis could do.
This article seems to put it all on the offense for this loss. But the offense pretty much played like it has for the last month … streaky, off and on, not real good at converting red zone approaches to touchdowns.
It was the defense that played at a lower level last night. It gave up slightly more than twice as many points as it averaged during the 5-game win streak. So why isn’t the defense the focus of concern here?
It was much the same during the pre-game shows on the networks … most if not all the focus was on Winston the quarterback and his supporting players on offense. Little to no mention was made by the media folks of the defense which was primarily responsible for the improvement in the team from 3-5 to 8-5.
I’m not sure what exactly happened to make the defense under-perform to recent levels last night. Obviously the very strong running game of Dallas was a very big factor … but that alone cannot explain how we let a rookie quarterback post the second highest in all time NFL history completion percentage for any quarterback throwing 30 or more times in a game, as we allowed last night. The fact is, if it weren’t for our defense’s strong red-zone performance leading to numerous field goal attempts, this game would have been a blowout, with Dallas putting 35 to 40 points on the board. Thankfully our red zone defense was very good which prevented an otherwise surefire beatdown.
We still have a shot at the playoffs, but a much lower shot than we had entering the game last night. One game at a time, take care of business, all that.
As for the offense, frankly the rookie Prescott looked a lot more poised than did Winston, which is surprising to me. Winston didn’t have his worst game this season (his worst games this season were against Denver and Oakland), but I certainly expected more than this performance. With chances at the end to drive his team down the field in the final coupla minutes for the win, I expected more than the pathetic results achieved. Was it emotions? Maturity? I dunno.
Emotions or maturity was not to blame, it was the lack of a right tackle. Our right tackle couldn’t block anything in the 4th quarter. Winston had no time or space to throw the ball and when he did, he was so worried about the pass rush that he over threw multiple times. I think our defense did an Ok job bending but not breaking. Our red zone defense was great against this high powered offense. They kept us in this game and set up the offense with multiple chances to win this game. Take away the 3 turnovers and we win this game. Lets just hope we get another shot at the cowgirls in the playoffs because this game was winnable.
Lack of a right tackle didn’t cause our quarterback to get a 15-yard penalty for unnecessary roughness … an almost unheard of penalty for a starting quarterback. I’ve been watching the NFL for more than 50 years and I’ve never seen that call before.
And if the offensive line is having trouble blocking, then a quarterback and his playcaller ought to be able to do two things: (1) get rid of the ball faster, and (2) be accurate with his passes. That’s how you defeat a pass rush, and Jameis Winston did neither. It also didn’t help that our running game continues to be mediocre.
Actually it kinda did, if we don’t lose 7 yards on the run Winston is nowhere near the tackler to head butt him. So ya that is partially on the o line too.
No need to point fingers. There were issues all over that contributed to this loss. No matter though as I am still super proud of the Bucs 5 game winning streak and this loss does not stain that. The Cowboys are a well rounded team and they have a few awesome weapons. And still the Bucs were in the game at the end. You win some you lose some. Jameis wasn’t on yesterday and that hurt. The Bucs had some offensive line issues which ruined any chance for a comeback drive at the end. But they were in this game until the end. Did anyone honestly think the Bucs would be in this position at the beginning of the season? I didn’t. It’s not over yet. There is still a chance for a wildcard spot. That’s what we all hope for. Games like this last one can do nothing but provide experience for a growing team. Keep your heads up Bucs. Nothing to be ashamed of. You were just a bit off yesterday and ran into a very good team. I see the makings of a very good team growing in Tampa too. Some key pieces are still missing and I’m sure the comments will be filled with calls for OL help. No doubt. But remember that Jameis is only 22 years old. He’s even younger than Dak. He’s got years to keep growing. I for one love the kid even with the streaky play. He’s aggressive and fun to watch. Go Bucs. You deserve a winning season.
Poor gameplan on defense and offense by the coaches and it resulted in the team looking like rookies. The Giants just beat the Cowboys by sending 5-6 guys against the rush and to plug up the running holes. We for some reason played our DB’s in a zone and gave the WR’s plenty of space. Why? This was the sme ole coach Smith calling a conservative defense like he did the first half of the season. The offensive play calling stunk! Winston was throwing high, but it didn’t mater because their DL was destroying our OL. Lots of quick slant passes and screens would have helped to stop what they were doing. This is why I don’t like the Head Coach also calling plays; he needs to be there to see what is working and not working and provide guidance on both sides oif the ball. Now it’s on to new Orleans and we better be ready because this team is ready to tear us a new one. Go Bucs! No time to pout; next game up!
Horse,I read your comments often and normally you are spot on but blaming the coaches for this loss is bullshit. The reason we lost this game was because of cherilus (right tackle)and because the offensive line of the cowboys were simply what we knew they were(Damn good).we have to get better in the red zone and will when we get someone who can pass protect and Winston gets more time in the pocket.the Bucs showed up and played(fought hard,didn’t quit)so I’m proud of this team!we are one good draft and a couple free agent” hits”from being a team to deal with for years!horse,I think you are a educated fan as I am also (followed this team from Kevin house to John cannon to the sandman Broderick Thomas to mark Courtney,Cecil Brown etc) but blaming the play calling is just bullshit. We had perfect call on the screen but both guys missed their blocks, missed Evans deep late,so that is execution not play calling.we were simply out played in the trenches,but it’s all good. Our Bucs will be back,possibly in Dallas again as a wildcard team in a few weeks,go Bucs!
Can somebody tell me how we own the tiebreaker with Green Bay? It’s good to be still talking about the playoffs and hopefully Dotson is back from concussion protocol next week which I think he will be. Cherilus bought his ticket to being released in the offseason. I agree with some other posts in different threads as we need a young stout offensive tackle or guard in the draft along with a young corner and maybe we still take a shot at going after Alshon Jeffery from Chicago in free agency. Out time to capitalize was when we forced the Whitten fumble and did nothing with the ball at mid-field. Red zone defense was not bad but the difference was the pressure on the edge that was giving Winston hell all night. Remember though, we still control our own destiny, the Redskins finish with the panthers tonight, a winnable game versus Chicago and then the giants who will be playing for something so they can easily lose one of those games, I said it last week and i still think Detroit loses out (Cowboys and Packers) remaining on their schedule so if we can take care of business and win in NOLA and at home against the panthers, we still get in IMO.
How do we control our own Destiny? Right now it is the Redskins that control their own destiny. We could win out and not get in. Redskins win out and they are in.
Maybe I am confused.
Timbuc2, I’m just saying that i think the Skins will lose one of their last 3 games.
And no, you’re not confused, yes if the redskins win out, they will most likely be in, another scenario would be they lose one, we win our last two and we are in or they could lose one and we win out, Detroit loses out, again, they have the Cowboys and Packers and we get in. BLUF is that we can’t lose no more games. Atlanta also finishes with games (division) against the Panthers and Saints so anything can happen depending on what Panthers team decides to show up which includes tonight against the Redskins.
Bucs played scrappy but do we think we are a better team than Dallas? Winston has got to get better on his deep ball its hurting his progression as a qb he consistently over throws wide open wrs on fly patterns its worrisome
jongruden, Prescott mostly threw short passes and would not dare to throw where Winston throws. Yes our pass protection was weak. I wasn’t that impressed with Dallas. Our scheme wasn’t so hot on our offense and defense. Why let your QB keep getting killed; make some adjustments by throwing short passes like Prescott was doing. Why not blitz Prescott on defense like the Giant did and what we will have to do to beat the Saints?
Definitely not our best defensive performance but they still gave us a chance to win the game. The game was lost due to Jameis not getting the time he needed to find open receivers and his inability to hit them when he did have the time.
That was the absolute worst performance by an offensive lineman I have ever seen. I know Koetter said Cherilus was hurt so maybe that is a valid excuse. Marinelli saw that and Jameis had no chance.
Sometimes games like this can highlight weaknesses that were somewhat overlooked during the win streak. I have to agree with my friend Horse. Hawley is scrappy, but he’s little more than an undersized journeyman who was already cut by Atlanta. Panphile showed some promise, but I think he may be more of a 6th man. Since guards are easier to find than centers I would not be surprised to see Marpet moved to the pivot. I never thought I’d say this. We sure needed Dotson.
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